Self Esteem

Taking Chances Pays Off for My Daughter

Don’t let ADHD stand in the way of your child meeting a challenge. There’s always a silver lining.

Lee read the flyer I handed her and said, “So basically I have to give up three weeks of my life this summer, but I get less homework all next year?”

I nodded.

She bit her lip, considering, then said, “Sign me up.”

The flyer had come in the mail that day. I read it, then reread it, I and wondered if I were crazy to entertain the idea. Health class, a requirement for all high school freshmen, was being offered in summer school. If Lee could pass it, she’d get freshman year with a second art elective instead of Health.

This class was a streamlined version, raced through in a total of three weeks, for five hours a day, 11 days total. Lee had struggled in eighth grade, and we’d watched her anxiety climb with adolescence. I worried that Lee’s ADHD and learning disabilities would make it difficult for her to sit long hours and focus, making her anxiety worse. How would she stand the pressure?

After the first day of summer school, Lee said, “My teacher’s Mr. Reed. He’s chill, Mom. I think I can do this.”

The second day, she got a load of the homework-at least double her norm. On that first day, Lee announced she couldn’t possibly keep up with taking notes, so she wrote down all the pages the other students were doing in class. She told Mr. Reed about her ADHD, and he shared that he’d had dyslexia, giving her permission for extra time to do missing classwork at night, along with her homework.

“But. Mom,” she cried, “how am I going to make it through the nights?” There was no doubt she’d need someone to help her focus, stay organized, and persevere. And the last person this independent teenage girl wanted help from was her mom.

I saw the battles looming and I said, “Honey, it’s not too late to pull out.” The minute I said it, I wanted to take it back. If she wanted to do this, we could make it work. If there was one thing I’d learned from having a daughter with ADHD, every challenge was an opportunity for growth for the two of us.

Lee looked at me for a moment and said, “I’ll give it a try.”

She started off strong with an A in the first week. Her work dipped to a C in the second week. Nights became nightmares of cramming facts on the human body and discussing awkward subjects like birth control, drugs, and STDs. At the same time, I was spending long nights having the conversations most moms wished they could have with their teenage daughters. I got a window into her thinking, her opinions and values, and found out that I really liked the view.

In the end, her group participation pulled up her test scores. She got a B-minus in Health and a pass from having to take the class freshman year. Even better, my daughter and I learned that “impossible” challenges have a silver lining if you take a chance.